“Rock me, Rock me Jesus!”

That is the catchy hook to the new indie comedy hit of the summer, Hamlet 2, starring the brilliant Steve Coogan as a down-and-out actor who puts on the best high school musical theatre play of all time (also titled Hamlet 2) It wasn’t all by choice though, as the school tries first to close down the drama department and then shut down the play itself. The film does a great job of tying all those elements and variables together to create a very relatable film with characters that seem real enough to hang out with, even if some are parodies of stereotypes of characters in high school “redemption films” (like Dangerous Minds, for example).

The writers are even nice enough to point which inspiration was where to the audience.  It gives lots of “Aha!” moments that really give some humanity to Coogan’s slightly demented and neurotic character, Dana Marschz. Catherine Keener plays his wife Brie almost as well as her role in An American Crime; she brings comedy and high drama to a role that could have been easily gotten lost in the fluff. David Arquette also stars in this film as Gary, the BORE-der in the Marshz home, and his performance (or lack thereof) really keeps the film going through some of the uncomfortable dramatic scenery.

The comedic stylings are very much in the same vein of Tropic Thunder, which also,  ironically, starred Steve Coogan. The similarities come into play as the jokes are centered on the craft of the performance rather than the performance itself. Sure, there is slapstick, but there are also complex jokes that audiences of all ages can enjoy again and again.

However, in terms of context of the content, Juno would be more in line of the where this film is going with its controversy. It is an interesting dynamic that actually gets pulled off very well in the film, but you’ll have to see it but since to truly appreciate how it gets to the crux of the matter.  Just be happy to know most of the jokes are not in the trailer, which is a very common complaint with some comedies.

All in all, this was a very entertaining film that celebrates the art of art. Steve Coogan’s slightly over-the-top performance is balanced by Catherine Keener’s calm demeanor and David Arquette’s supremely understated performance. The actual musical itself was pretty fun even if there is more than a little a bit of weirdness in the plot. I give this film a high recommendation if you are looking for some quirky comedy before school starts up again!

5 / 5 stars